In an exclusive interview with Karen News, P’Doh Naw Zipporah Sein, Vice-chairperson of the Karen National Union, discussed the issues and agreements reached at the ethnic armed organization plenary meeting held from July 26 to 30 in Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State.
Q: Could you tell what issues were discussed during the five days of the Mai Ja Yang meeting?
A: We discussed four main topics, first was the Pin Lon agreement. The second topic was the state constitution under federalism. The third was the national defense and security with a Federal Army and the fourth was the political framework.
Q: What did the KNU propose at the meeting?
A: This meeting was not for each armed group to present their proposal. Proposals were presented by only two groups, from the eight signatories of NCA and the non-signatories of NCA which is the UNFC, but we didn’t have proposals from each of the groups. The KNU, one of the 8 signed groups, tabled and discussed the constitutions of a Federal Government, State Constitution, national defense, and political framework. The UNFC also tabled proposals.
Q: The meeting lasted for five days – on what issues did the ethnic groups agree?
A: The agreement we came to this time is related to Pin Lon. Pin Lon directly concerns Shan, Kachin, and Chin which are the large ethnic groups. For ethnic groups, self-government, equal rights, and democracy are all in the Pin Lon. We agreed on the principle from Pin Lon, which means we want to build a Federal Government. That was the first topic. The second was the ethnic groups that attended the meeting agreed on the eight founding principles of a Federal Constitution. We have been discussing it for a long time.
Someof the ethnic groups have been cooperating together for 20 years, since Mar Nar Plaw. Others at the start of the democracy movement. In both cases, ethnic groups signed an agreement upon eight founding principles in 2015. We didn’t have any problems at this meeting. We just discussed, reviewed and came to an agreement. We added things that need to be added. We also reached an agreement on national defense and security and federal security. If we are going to build a federal government, we must have a federal army. What type of army depends on the principles we will agreed to.
Q: While the Mai Ja Yang meeting was being held, Mong La and the Wa went to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing. What is your opinion on this?
A: Before the meeting, UNFC representatives were sent (to the two groups) and discussed the possibility of them joining the meeting. They had difficulties in attending the meeting since it was the same time they planned to meet with the government. Therefore, we understood that they could not attend the meeting as planned. We also held our meeting as planned. This is one point. The other issue is language barriers. They don’t understand Burmese well. If they attend the meeting, there will be problems in understanding the discussions. That’s my opinion.
Q: Four topics were agreed upon in the Mai Ja Yang meeting. How will the ethnic armed forces continue working towards finalizing the unfinished issues?
A: We have come to an agreement upon the founding principles. To work on details, we have representatives called DPN (Dialogue for Political Negotiation) from the UNFC. The DPN was combined with another group previously called the Coordinating Team (CT), and a committee was formed. They are responsible for combining the two documents on the matter to create one and to work specifically on unfinished matters. We also have working groups on each topic. They have to work under their topics. They have to submit a report on August 10 to the committee who will be responsible for reviewing and finishing the report. The committee will do things needed to confirm the details and will hold a meeting if needed.
In order to work together with the government, the current government has opened its door to them. Firstly, Aung San Suu Kyi invited them for the 21st century Pin Lon Congress. This is the perfect time for ethnic groups to discuss politics with the government and for the 21st century Pin Lon Congress. We have to review and revise the Political Dialogue Framework before attending the congress. To review, we have to hold a meeting to conclude the political framework.
Q: What is the KNU’s position on the 21st century Pin Lon Conference or the Union Peace Conference?
A: In my opinion, the important thing is to go together. Whether we are signatories [of NCA] or non-signatories [of NCA], it is time to go together. If we are to go in August as planned, signatory groups and non-signatory groups will have only a short time to review and analyze the political framework. The government should give consideration for this short time. Enough time should be given to non-signatory groups to analyze the political framework. We need more time to do it precisely. And then, if the government asks why we should discuss the political framework, it is because we all need to cooperate in the Union Peace Congress which is the 21st Century [Pin Lon] Conference. The way in which all the ethnic groups and ethnic parties should be included will be described in the political framework. Thus, reaching an agreement is important. In this meeting, we especially reached a common position on tripartite dialogue. The important thing is that government, ethnic armed forces and political parties must be included. Before, the government was divided into three parts – government, army, and parliament. We came to an agreement that the government, parliament and the army is one, ethnic armed forces are one, and the political parties are one. Thus, we need to negotiate for a new agreement on the political framework.
Q: Do you have any else to add?
A: Whether it is reaching an agreement with all ethnic groups or establishing a federal government within Myanmar, the important thing for all the ethnic groups is to live together. Whether it is the ethnic political parties, ethnic armed forces, or as democracy activists, the main goal is to get equal rights, self-government, to live together, and to get equal government. Thus, in establishing the federal government, we cannot live separately. We cannot move forward with only the government and the ethnic groups. We cannot proceed with only the political parties and the government. We all have to work together. In this we have to be patient and work in harmony. There will probably be obstacles, but the important thing is to discuss, work together, and create solutions.
We can reach our political goal only if we work together. We cannot reach it if we don’t work together. Alone, we won’t solve the problems, and there will be problems. For example, the previous government didn’t agree on all the ethnic armed groups signing [the NCA], so we have seen fighting among ethnic groups. This fighting hasn’t stopped yet. There is still fighting. That’s why we have to be cautious. We have to respect each other and maintain mutual understanding to reach our goal. Ethnic people and the Myanmar people have to understand this. To establish the federal government and to have a democratic government, we all have to work together.